Butler sparking offense with power stroke

Butler sparking offense with power stroke

Butler sparking offense with power stroke
BALTIMORE -- When Billy Butler blasted a home run an estimated 436 feet into the visitors' bullpen at Camden Yards in Saturday's 4-3 win over the O's, it was a relatively new wrinkle from one of Kansas City's most consistent players.

Butler has hit at least .291 for three consecutive seasons, and with a .301 average start to 2012, the Royals slugger has a chance to make it four.

Butler connected for his 11th homer in his first at-bat in Sunday's 4-2 win -- a solo shot into the left-field seats. His career high for home runs is 21, and Butler's 11 in the first 46 games puts him on pace to shatter that mark by 18.

Manager Ned Yost has been shuffling his lineup, trying some players in as many as six different spots. But Butler has made the skipper's job a little easier, slotting into the three- or four-hole every game this year and consistently producing.

"My experience has been, you don't have to worry about Billy much," Yost said. "His slides are very infrequent, and they're very short in their nature. He's just as consistent of a performer as I've ever seen."

Butler is the only Royal, aside from left fielder Alex Gordon, to start all 45 games this year -- batting third as the DH in Sunday's series finale against the Orioles.

Splitting time between first base and designated hitter, Butler has played at least 158 games each of the last three seasons.

While Butler couldn't point to a reason for his increased power, Yost said he thinks it's a payoff from Butler's strong offseason, during which he increased both his strength and agility.

"He worked real hard this year in his conditioning all winter long," Yost said. "[He] lived in Arizona for the first time and was at the complex just about every day working on his conditioning, and I've got to think that that has something to do with it."